Representative Andy Barr wrote an editorial in Mondays Herald Leader explaining his decision to vote against disaster relief aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Rep. Barr said that his highest priority was addressing our national debt crisis and getting our financial house in order, so we can get our economy back on track and Americans back to work.
I have a couple of comments regarding that statement. First, if the deficit is the single highest priority, than it must be reduced by any means, including across the board cuts, and revenue (read tax) increases. Rep. Barr has not yet had the opportunity to vote on tax increases, but I suspect that he, like most conservatives, will vote against them, claiming that they will hurt the economy. Thats fine, but that means that not raising taxes is a higher priority than deficit reduction. I also suspect that Rep. Barr will oppose any cuts to the military, and will, like most conservatives, claim that cutting the military would harm national defense. Again that is fine, but it means that national defense is a higher priority than deficit reduction.
My second comment concerns the implication that the deficit is somehow the cause of the nations economic woes. There is no doubt that large deficits can draw money into the government that would otherwise go to other areas of the economy. But the recent increase in the deficit is as much, or more, a product of the economic slowdown as the cause. As the economy slowed, due initially to the collapse of the housing market, tax revenues decreased, which meant that the deficit increased. The deficit ballooned because the economy slowed and shrank. Reducing the deficit is certainly important, but because it did not cause the economic slow-down, its reduction wont impact the economic problems that did cause the economic slowdown.
My final comment involves specific government spending cuts. Andy Barr ran for Congress in 2010 and 2102. During both races he talked a lot about cutting government spending, but it was always in the abstract. He never really addressed specific cuts. He never said he wanted to cut this program or end that program. It was always very vague. Now that he is in Congress he has the opportunity, if not the obligation, to specifically describe those programs he wants to trim or eliminate. I look forward to that.